The Weighing of the Heart, Papyrus of Ani

The ‘Book of the Dead’, Papyrus of Ani (sheet 3): Ani’s Judgment: the scene is the Hall of Judgment. The Weighing of the Heart Ceremony. Centrally placed is a balance, holding in its two pans Ani’s heart (on the left) and a feather (on the right) representing Maat, the divine personification of truth and order.

The crossbar of the balance hangs from a feather-shaped peg attached to the upright support, on the top of which squats a small baboon. This creature is a form of the god Thoth, who acts in a different form and with a different duty elsewhere in this “trial”.

The Weighing of the Heart Ceremony, Papyrus of Ani (sheet 3)
The Weighing of the Heart Ceremony, Papyrus of Ani (sheet 3)

The god Anubis, here shown as a jackal-headed, human-bodied, kneeling deity, described as “he who is in the place of embalming,” holds the cord of the right-hand pan, and steadies the plumb bob of the balance. To the right of the balance stands Thoth, here in human form with ibis head; he is the scribe of the gods, and he holds a scribe’s palette and a reed brush, ready to note down the results of Ani’s interrogation.

Adoration of Re
Adoration of Re

Osiris as the Djed Pillar holding the Disc of the Sun God Ra, supported by an ankh symbol representing Life, surrounded by Isis and Nephthys.

Scene in the underworld with lake of fire and Thoth’s baboons
Scene in the underworld with lake of fire and Thoth’s baboons

The baboon shown in the picture belongs to the species Papio hamadryas and was originally from Sudan and Abyssinia. It was imported in Egypt and consecrated to Thot, god of writing and science, but also connected to ‪the cult‬ associated to the sun. The posture, so solemn and hieratic, is well suited to his status of sacred animal but we must not forget his role as a faithful companion of man: in several scenes we see him playing with children or other animals. Although it was an animal with a strong positive value, it must have had also a “dark” side: the hieroglyph of the baboon was used as a determinant of the verb Knd, “to be furious”.

Scene in the underworld with lake of fire and Thoth’s baboons. Vignette from Book of the Dead of Ani, sheet 33.

New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, reign of Ramesses II, around 1250 BC. Now in the British Museum, London. EA 10470,3